By Jeff Shearer
CANTON, Ohio - Kevin Greene was in Auburn's weight room in the spring of '85 when the call came from the Los Angeles Rams.
"I left my number at the football facilities where I was going to be," Greene said. "`If I get drafted, tell them to call me there.' And they did, and I'm in the middle of a set of bench presses. They were fixing to draft me. First player picked, fifth round. I said, `Cool. Let's go.'"
Greene reminisced on Friday at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, one day after receiving his gold jacket, and one day before the enshrinement ceremony.
"Coming from a guy who just basically walked on a couple years earlier. I didn't care where I was going to go in the draft. It was just neat that they were even talking about me going in the draft. I don't care where I go," he said. "I don't have to be a first-rounder. Heck, I don't have to be a 10th-rounder or a 13th-rounder. I just want to go somewhere and get an opportunity to play, and continue this, because it was fun."
Greene didn't start at Auburn until the final four games of his senior season. Somehow, he still managed to lead the SEC in sacks in 1984, with 11.
He played intramurals his first three seasons at Auburn, before walking on and playing special teams on the 1983 SEC Championship team.
Greene played professionally for 15 seasons, recording 160 sacks, third most in NFL history.
He is Auburn's second member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
"It's just tremendous to represent the War Eagles in Canton," Greene said. "Frank Gatski is the other fellow, and he played in the middle `40s, right after World War 2. It's been awhile. It's been a long drought for Auburn, but we definitely have a War Eagle in Canton now. I'm going to carry that mantle with pride."
Greene credited Auburn with preparing him for NFL success.
"It was huge. Pat Dye, and that entire staff," he said. "Those two-a-days, and three-a-days. As physical as those practices were, down at Auburn in the heat. It was just tremendous. It set the standard for me as far as work ethic to be good.
"I really thought playing the games on Saturday was kind of like a day off, because they were easier than practice. Playing somebody else was easier. Those practices were really, really physical, and really tough, and steeped in fundamentals and technique. We were all about fundamentals and technique, and the physicality of the game. And that carried me for 15 years in the league."
An exit interview with Coach Dye helped Greene believe he could make it in the pros.
"I asked him, `Did he think I had a chance at the next level?' And he looked me in the eye and said, `Yeah, I think there's a place for you somewhere,'" Greene said. "I know he's thinking there's always a place for a crazy dude like you to run down the field on kickoff team and knock people out. That's probably what he's thinking, but he said, `Yeah, there's a place for you somewhere.'
"That's really all I needed was to hear that confidence coming from Pat Dye, because I still have him on such a pedestal. And I just look up to him so much. But I was really grateful that he took that time to say that and give me that word of encouragement, because that's what I needed to really start looking at the next level."
Throughout his hall of fame career, Greene returned often to his alma mater.
"I felt it was my responsibility as an ex-player at Auburn to go back and share," he said. "Share what I was learning and what I was experiencing. Tricks of the trade. I must have gone back, 8, 9, 10 years after the season ended. I took playing film. I was able to show Coach (Joe) Whitt the exact technique and fundamental that I was using on certain pass blockers. How they were pass setting. Some of them are punchers. Some of them are maulers. I was able to show them how I attacked each tackle differently based on their skill set. He had me on the field kind of show them different things."
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"It was important for me to give back to Auburn every year as much as I possibly could to help them achieve their success and help Coach Whitt because he gave me an opportunity as a walk-on. He didn't just let me gather dust over there. Eventually, he had to say, `Greene, get in here. Let's go.' So he gave me that opportunity, so I just wanted to give something back to the university."
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer